Thursday, April 14, 2011

Take Away the Stone

Homily from the 5th Sunday in Lent - Year A

When I was a little kid, one of the things I hated doing more than anything was cleaning under my bed.   I had tons of toys as a kid, mostly Star Wars stuff.  And I’d sit on the floor and play with the action figures, the vehicles, etc.  Toys would be strewn all over the place. 

I had the big Darth Vader helmet action figure carrying case.  But, when I was done playing, I wouldn’t put everything back in it’s proper place, I’d just shove everything under the bed.  Paper airplanes wouldn’t go in the trash – they’d get shoved under the bed.  Juice boxes, apple cores, half eaten pizza bagels – all under the bed.  I was a slob as a kid.

And, I was really good at making my bed in those days.  I’d get that comforter coming off the side of the bed just perfectly so the edge was resting just perfectly along the floor.  Why? Because mom would be walking by and I didn’t want her to see the mess under my bed.  But mom knew her son well. And every few weeks she’d peek under the bed.

One time I saw her lift up the comforter and her head snapped back like she had just walked into a brick wall.  "Get this cleaned up right now!” she’d bellow.  Then I’d retort with the time-honored protest of every 7 year old in the history of western civilization: “But mooooooom!!!”

Because I knew what torture it would be. To have to dig everything out. It acted like it was an impossible task.  I hated it so much, I would hem and haw and shuffle my feet and it would take me hours (it seemed) to clean up a mess that had only taken moments to create.

In the gospel today, Jesus stands in front of Lazarus’ tomb and says, “Take away the stone.”  And Martha retorts with her version of “But mooooooom!!!”  Martha says, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”

In those days, Jews believed that the soul of a dead person would hover around the body for three days.  But on the fourth day, the soul would take off, bodily deomposition would set in, and there was no hope of resuscitation of the dead person.

Martha, sees no hope for her brother Lazarus.  And when she hears Jesus say, “Take away the stone” she says, “No way, I don’t wan’t to go there.”  She’s like me at 7. “Please mom don’t make me clean out from under my bed. Don’t make me go under there.”

What is under your bed?  What have you shoved under there, year after year after year?  What have you concealed with the perfectly laid comforter that sits neatly against the floor so no one can see?  What dead things do we have hidden inside our tombs?

Jesus is saying something to us today.  He says to you and I, “Take away the stone.”  And perhaps our reaction is, “No Lord please. Don’t make me go there. By now there will be a stench. It’s been way too long. There’s no hope for me. It’s been four days. My spirit is gone.”

Jesus says something else to us.  The same thing he said to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”

Jesus isn’t just talking about life after death.  He’s talking about new life right now. Today.

Take away the stone and let Jesus shout to you: “Come out!”  Don’t say, “No Lord, there will be a stench.”  Let him say “Come out” to you in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

When Lazarus came out of the tomb, he was bound with burial bands and his face wrapped in cloth. and Jesus said, “Untie him and let him go.”

Jesus gives the same command to every priest who hears your confession: “Untie him. Untie her from her sin… and let her go.”

You are not a hopeless situation, whether its been four days, four years or forty years.

Take away the stone.

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